Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Ten Years!

July 29, 2005
DX Stage 3B Epithelial Ovarian Cancer
9 cycles of Carboplatin/taxol/selenium ( Phase 1 Clinical Trial)

October 3, 2008
Recurrence : CT scan shows lesions on my spleen and liver
Spleenectomy , Liver resection
6 cycles ( carbo/taxol 2 cycles then 4 taxol only)

July 29, 2010
The 10-year relative survival rate for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is 38%. (ACS Cancer Facts, 2012)

I am grateful to be in that 38%. 
I am grateful for the love and support of my family and friends.
I am grateful for my faith. 
I am grateful for Dr Lorna Rodriguez and Dr Darlene Gibbon at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. I would not be here without the excellent and compassionate care they provide. 

I want to give back to these doctors who have given me 10 years of life so I have created a personal campaign to raise funds for the  Ovarian Cancer Research Support Fund at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (RCINJ). If you are able please donate and support the exciting ovarian cancer research being done at RCINJ.  Please click here to get to my fundraising page.  
Thank you!

Every Day is a Blessing!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Out with the Ovaries

 Updated 7/21/15
The other day there was a discussion in a Facebook group I belong to about what happens when a women has her ovaries removed ( oopherectomy) prophylactically.  I thought to myself - prophylactically or due to surgery / chemotherapy -  the effects are the same.

I know which side effects I experienced when I  had my ovaries (along with other organs) removed due to ovarian cancer. Even if your ovaries are not surgically removed, they may be damaged due to chemotherapy which can cause menopause and infertility. 

What can happen? Symptoms you may experience when your ovaries are removed include:
  • hot flashes / night sweats
  • vaginal dryness
  • decreased sex drive
  • skin changes
  • sleep disruptions
  • urinary symptoms
  • bone loss (osteopenia/ ) osteoporosis
  • fatigue
  • weight gain 
  • trouble focusing
  • increased risk for heart disease

So how do we deal with these side effects?

There are various ways to help with the symptoms of menopause including hormonal therapies, non-hormonal therapies, complimentary therapies and bioidentical hormones (FDA statement on bio-identicals) .  Be sure to ask your doctor which therapy is acceptable for you to use if you are in treatment or at risk for breast cancer / ovarian cancer.

Some helpful resources include:

This American Cancer Society article on menopause and cancer risk is a good place to turn for information on options you can talk to your doctor about. ( )

The NCI has a brochure Health Care Maintenance for Women Undergoing Risk-Reducing Ovarian Surgery ( GOG 0199) as well as  a number of online resources on dealing with the side effects of premature menopause. The resources may be found at

You may also find the Menopause Guidebook from the the North American Menopause Society) helpful. Download it at

Another good source of information is the US National Library of Medicine's Medline Plus site on Menopause .

Many of the pre-menopausal women diagnosed with ovarian cancer I have spoken to have gotten limited information on dealing with the side effects of menopause.  It is important that valuable resources like those listed above are part of the conversation that women have with their health care provider when their ovaries are removed prohylactically or due to a cancer diagnosis.

Every Day is a Blessing!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


You have a choice each and every day
I choose to feel blessed
I choose to feel grateful
I choose to be excited 
I choose to be thankful
I choose to be happy. 
          - Amber Housley

A friend and ovarian cancer survivor on Facebook posted a photo with these words on it today.

I instantly thought of the gynecologic cancer support group I went to this week. Most of the women are living with disease and two of us are NED(no evidence of disease). We talked about our treatments and side effects and then we started to talk about J. At our May meeting J told us she was stopping treatment and was moving to New England to be with her mom, family and friends.I wrote about it in this blog post. Not one of us told her that it was a bad decision . Not one of us told her to continue in treatment. Even though we all knew what would happen - eventually.

Eventually was June 21st. All of us thought she passed away too quick. We wanted more time with her - talking on the phone, texting, e-mailing or maybe even getting a chance to visit. We talked about the wonderful handbags she created. We were sad. But we were also grateful that she felt close enough to all of us to share her deepest fears and needs.  We were happy that we could tell her how much she meant to us. We were grateful that J had some time in a beautiful spot in New England.

Picture from J of the view from her home.

I am happy she let us be a part of her life. I will always admire her for making the choice she did.

Every Day is a Blessing! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Anxiety and Putting Things in Perspective

Last Wednesday's #gyncsm topic was Dealing with Anxiety. As usual when preparing for a chat I researched some resources and thought about my own personal responses to the questions we were asking. You can find the questions etc on this page.

When I was diagnosed I felt anxious about :
My port functioning correctly ( It worked for 9 years.) 
The chemo working 
Getting an infection when my blood counts were low (This never happened)
Waiting for CA-125 results
Waiting for CT scan results (Frequently called Scanxiety by patients and survivors.)
Having enough energy to get anything done around the house.

When my treatments ended and I was in remission I became anxious with every ache and pain in my abdomen and pelvis or with every upset stomach. Then I recurred and all the things that made me anxious when I was in treatment initially came right back to haunt me. And then of course I added a few new anxiety provoking things. My cancer recurred on my liver and spleen so I worried after surgery about not having a spleen. Then I became anxious when I experienced a severe allergic reaction to carboplatin and needed to be on taxol only. Would a single agent do the trick?

Over time I learned to deal with my anxiety although even while NED ( no evidence of disease) these past few years I still get anxious waiting for scan and  CA-125 results.

Then a few weeks ago something different happened. I hurt my knee. It was a weird pulling type of feeling and in a day or two it was back to normal. Then two weeks ago I felt it again and then last Thursday night after working with my dog outside - POW - the pain was so intense.

The next morning I couldn't put my left foot down without feeling a pain behind my knee. A quick trip to my primary care physician lead to a referral to a orthopedist ( which happens next week) for a possible torn meniscus. I also got instructions to rest it and ice it. The pain I could deal with by taking a few Advil. But what upset me most was that I had to cancel plans I had for the weekend. Canceling those plans raised the same feelings I had when I was in chemo and had to miss so many events with family and friends.

Then the "not knowing"anxious feeling came back too.
Not knowing what the actual diagnosis for my knee pain will be.
Not knowing what the treatment would be.
Not knowing how long it will take to heal.

I was telling my husband how I was feeling and he turned to me and said "You got through cancer treatments you can get through this too". Kind of put it all in perspective.

Every Day is a Blessing!